Our Botswana and Namibia safari begins in Windhoek. We meet our Expedition Leader on arrival and settle in to our boutique hotel in one of Windhoek’s leafy and tranquil neighborhoods. Over a leisurely welcome dinner, get acquainted with fellow travelers and learn about the vast landscape and wildlife we’ll be exploring in the fortnight ahead, during an orientation with our Expedition Leader.
A morning flight delivers us to the private 90,000-acre Kulala Wilderness Reserve, where we are immersed among massive gold-orange dunes that rise a thousand feet from the floor of the world’s oldest desert. This is Namibia’s vast sand sea, where currents, waves and wind cause the world’s tallest dunes to shape-shift against intense blue skies. Sossusvlei translates as “dead-end marsh”—the place where the Namib desert’s dunes come together to prevent the Tsauchab River from flowing to the Atlantic Ocean. Wandering in the midst of Namibia’s largest conservation area, watch for intermittent, ancient petrified dunes that formed as long as a billion years ago. The wildlife gems we may find amid this arid clime include springbok, gemsbok, oryx and ostrich, spotted and brown hyena, bat-eared fox and aardwolf. The rare dune lark’s entire habitat is confined to this sandy expanse. Discover the desert’s quiet magic on short walks and wildlife drives, then return to the comfort of our camp with its secluded vantage for matchless sunsets and stargazing.
Fly north to the Desert Rhino Camp in the heart of the private, million-acre Palmwag Concession, a location so remote that our chartered plane will make a touchdown to refuel en route. This safari location offers the utmost privacy and isolation in one of Africa’s last great wildernesses. Freshwater springs around the desert reserve support healthy populations of wildlife including the camp’s namesake, the rare desert-adapted black rhino, which we track in the company of experts from Save the Rhino Foundation based at the camp. We also find desert-adapted elephants, endemic Hartmann’s mountain zebra, giraffe, oryx, springbok and greater kudu. Namibia’s second-largest predator population thrives here, which includes lion, cheetah, leopard and hyena. Birds are abundant, too, including a number of southern African endemics.
This morning, we fly to Etosha National Park, an ancient lakebed where perennial springs draw a plethora of game. The Etosha Salt Pan, visible from space, is the remnant of a huge lake that existed here two million years ago. Contrasts on the landscape come in the form of grasslands and large camel thorn trees mixed with mopani, also known as ironwood. Bare and dry today, the depression offers Namibia’s best wildlife viewing, with elephant, black and white rhino, lion, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, hartebeest, springbok,oryx, kudu and the diminutive dik-dik drawn to its life-sustaining waterholes, many of which are the result of natural springs and fountains. Birdlife is abundant, and we may see ostrich and raptors. Ongava’s private game reserve adjoining Etosha is a conservation success story, sprung when local families turned unproductive cattle ranches into a prolific 74,000-acre haven for wildlife. Our lodge is set on the extensive private reserve with access to Namibia’s best wildlife viewing. We’ll take day and night drives and walks, and we’ll watch animals up-close from strategically placed hides.
Leaving the dry Namib Desert, we fly to another realm entirely: the Okavango Delta, where the river pours over the sands of the Kalahari in a green maze of canals and lagoons, and sustains a profusion of wildlife. We stay in solitude at Xigera Camp in the Moremi Game Reserve. There is water here year-round, and we glide silently in a mokoro—a traditional poled dugout canoe—spying a host of animals and birds on the banks.
Depart by light aircraft for our deluxe bush camp bordering the acclaimed Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Our camp is a private oasis of luxury, with all the classic scenery one expects on an African safari—open floodplains, marshlands, acacia and mopane woodlands, riverine areas, and grasslands stretching to the horizon. The wildlife in this renowned corner of the Okavango is as diverse as it is prolific, from elephant and impala to lion and wild dog.
A flight by light aircraft brings us into the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, one of the best game-viewing regions in Botswana. Elephants thrive in the mopane woodlands, especially in winter when they number in the thousands. From our base at Savuti Camp, day and night drives may reveal all the large predators as well as impala, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest lechwe, tsessebe and other plains animals.
Fly to Chobe National Park for more of Botswana’s magnificent big game. Famous for its vast herds of elephants, the park is also home to feline predators and plenty of hoofed beasts. We enjoy lunch aboard a wildlife-viewing boat safari down the Zambezi River before entering Zambia, en route to the River Club. At this elegant Edwardian-flavored lodge facing the sunset, elephants and hippos often frequent the riverbank.
Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and arguably the most stupendous waterfall on the planet. A guided tour to the falls provides a fitting finale to our epic exploration. Say farewell this afternoon as we transfer to the Livingstone airport, where our Botswana and Namibia tour comes to an end.